John's Musings


Yeah, Me Neither

Nextion Screen on KB5RAB MMDVM DRM Operating System


I've been dabbling with DMR Radio Hotspots and trying hard to build the perfect rig. Right now I am running KB5RAB MMDVM image with great success.


I'd say that it is a bit geekier to use than an image like Pi-Star You'll note that I didn't hotlink KB5RAB and there's a good reason for that. There isn't a link!


You have to join the Brandmeister TalkGroup 3148 on Facebook and once approved go to the Files section and get the latest link to the KB5RAB image. It comes with a pretty excellent set of directions as well.


I'm using a Raspberry Pi 3 and DVMega UHF board and finally added the Nextion 2.4" UART HMI Screen also to get this screen to work you will need a USB to TTL converter.








The screen is interactive and changes values which is really cool. Here's what it looks like in action. Not the greatest video but you'll get the idea.




So it's not that complicated. So basically you download the KB5RAB image and write it to an SD card. They recommend logging in via a VNC connection. If you want to use ssh right out of the chute after you write the card add a file called "ssh" to /boot. On a mac I pass


cd /Volumes

cd boot

touch ssh


Ok, done deal you should be booted into the image and now you need to configure it. But first lets go back to the Nextion screen and configure it. First you need to download the Nextion Screen Editor and then you need a file to upload to the screen. I got my Nextion screen HMI file from an excellent resource and I won't hotlink his file for a couple of reasons. One, it isn't mine and I don't want to give the appearance it is. 2nd the link is only accessible if you are a member of QRZ.com anyway. So you would have to make an account there. Then do a global search for 2E0XVX. Scroll way down his page and he has a link to the Nextion HMI file.


It's super easy to configure. Install Nextion Screen Editor and open 2E0XVX's file. You MIGHT have to set the device ID. I didn't. Also note that near the upper left is a box I have tagged with the frequency in it. If your simplex channel is different than his you need to change this. Note that on the right the MMDVM line is highlighted blue. and the t22 box is selected. Scroll down on the lower right pane and find the frequency and change it. You have to do it one more time for the transmit frequency. (2nd photo).




Change the transmit frequency as well, then click Upload. You may have to set your serial port slow. I did for some reason. Note that this time I have the DMR field highlighted on the upper right hand pane and I have also changed the frequency in the lower left hand pane. Now simply hit upload.





Once it completes........that's it. Unplug the screen and go back to your KB5RAB image and log in over VNC. (I actually used ssh). Open a terminal and type


sudo raspi-config


Do the following (I'm not screenshoting everything here. If you can't figure out how to change your password by looking at the pic below you're in the wrong place anyway):


- Change User Password.

- Change Host Name (optional. I have a million Raspberry Pi's. I need very unique names so I know which is which)

- Localization Options. Change your Timezone.

- Interfacing Options. (See 2nd pic)




-Interfacing Options (con't.) Select "Serial"



Login shell = no



Serial Port Hardware = yes (I have seen people say both need to be NO. I had to turn on the serial port hardware to make my DVMega modem visible. I guess it depends on your hardware. DVMega needs it. Maybe other hardware doesn't.



Now go to your MMDVM.ini file and make sure display says "Nextion" with no quotes as in the 2nd to last line in the screenshot below.


And that's it. Should work like a champ. Mine does.





Comments

Adding an OLED to MMDVMHost images for DRM Radio

Well, once again I go find a process I want to accomplish and all the information is out there, however spread around in several places with each place seemingly leaving something out or not relevant to the exact thing I'm doing.


So I'm a happy lad running DMR radio with a Raspberry Pi 3, and a DVMega with Pi-Star OS and an external screen (OLED) that shows status.


Then this Ham I talk to invites me to view his YouTube page for information on adding an external screen to your setup. What this guy has done is amazing. His Ham Shack is amazing. And then he makes the statement that "Nah, I don't use Pi-Star, I use the KB5RAB image which uses MMDVMHost software".


It's just a compiled Raspbian Linux distribution that the developer added a bunch of ham tools to as well as MMDVMHost. Well, if this guy is using it, then by golly I should be using it because he sure seems to know a lot more than I do. So I go download it, burn the image file, boot it, configure it and everything works except the OLED screen that I thought was so cool. So then I find a couple of pages with directions for configuring the OLED and the MMDVMHost github page and try the directions on all three with no success. Then I start playing around with a combination of all three also with no success. Then at some point I start getting the drift of the minutia that the geeks are saying.


This is what I hate about the internet and people who figure things out. They know what they did so they say stuff like "patch this file or run a make on this file" but they don't tell you where the file is and leave out any number of important steps and clues. But hey, they know, right?


So here we go. How to add an OLED in MMDVMHost on the KB5RAB image (and probably other softwares that use MMDVMHost). First of all I got the information from here and here and mostly the directions were great with some detail being left out for my installation. The directions are great right up until the last step where you run the makefile on the MMDVMHost.


Assumption time. Assume you have have KB5RAB image installed and working with DRM and that you have an OLED wired up correctly to the DVMega. See here for details on wiring the OLED. Now log into your pi via ssh or attached monitor, keyboard, and mouse. I use ssh.


sudo raspi-config

go to step 5 (Interfacing options and make sure SPI and I2C are enabled.






Now exit rapsi-config and issue this command:

sudo apt-get install build-essential git-core libi2c-dev i2c-tools lm-sensor


Now do


sudo nano /etc/modules

ensure i2c and spidev are added





Now hit CTL + X, then Y then enter to save the file


Now run the following two commands to ensure your devices exist.


ls /dev12c*


ls /dev/spi*


root@raspberrypi:~# ls /dev/i2c*
/dev/i2c-0
root@raspberrypi:~# ls /dev/spi*
/dev/spidev0.0  /dev/spidev0.1


Now run these commands for the OLED library


git clone https://github.com/hallard/ArduiPi_OLED
cd ArduiPi_OLED
sudo make


"sudo make" also installs the libraries in this instance. Now here's where I ran into problems which are best solved by going into the GUI on the KB5RAB image. So boot into it or open a VNC session. Okay first stop the MMDVMHost



Now get the new MMDVMHost gitclone from the updates folder.




Now you'll notice that it put it in the Downloads folder.



Do a


cd MMDVMHost


then list the files


ls




Now you can run the makefile here.


sudo make -f Makefile.Pi.OLED


this takes a few minutes. Once it builds go back to the GUI and select "Update MMDVMHost Script"




Now go to "Edit MMDVMHost.ini"



Now make sure under Display it says OLED



Now reboot and you should be looking at a pretty OLED




Now I used the GUI and some of you may scoff at that. Running headless and using the command line is where it is at, and I agree fully with that. This was an attempt to make it EASY for others. By all means, you can do this from the command line and the instructions are already written for you in the scripts files.


NOTE: ONCE YOU RUN THE COMMANDS IN THE SCRIPT FILE TO REFRESH MMDMVHOST FROM GITHUB YOU STILL HAVE TO RUN make -f Makefile.Pi.OLED BEFORE YOU UPDATE MMDVMHOST.


If you feel I cheated cd to /home/pi/Scripts and nano up your relevant script file (github refresh for MMDVMHost or Update MMDVMHost) and use the commands one at a time on the command line. (I've only shown the example of the Update_MMDVMHost file here). No need to run the commands that start with "echo".





Comments

DVMega Hotspot OLED Wiring.....And easy firmware update

The DVMega is one popular Digital Mobile Radio (DMR) Hotspot for connecting to UHF (or VHF if so configured) networks. In the event there is no physical repeater nearby you can access the Ham Radio DMR networks via the internet. It opens Ham Radio up from the handful of old guys in your coverage area to techies worldwide. As I heard one old Ham comment "This is too easy" reminiscent of the days where you spent big bucks and mounted gigantic antennas outside of the house. Then you tuned and aimed said antenna, etc. etc. etc.


Now you can plug a hotspot in and buy a cheap DMR radio and talk to the whole wide world. There are plug and play solutions such as SharkRF OpenSpot but for a guy like me building the hotspot is part of the fun. And it is just a hair cheaper.


So anyone can buy a DVMega for a Raspberry Pi and plug it in and it works but the DVMega has one cool trick up its sleeve. You can add a monitor of some sort to display the call signs and network status. Soon as I found out you could do it I was hooked as I have several cheap OLED SSD1306 modules laying around here. Then came the realization that nowhere is the procedure documented. Oh, you'll find a wiring diagram here and there but simple, Barney style instructions are just not out there. And that's what I always strive to do.


Assumption time. I am under the assumption that you have a working DVMega hotspot on a Raspberry Pi 3 using Pi-Star OS. First of all get you an SSD1306 OLED I just linked this one for ease but I bet you can find much cheaper ones out there especially on eBay. Shouldn't spend more than a few bucks for one.


The wiring is very simple. It is only 4 wires, however a little soldering is required. The soldering will be done on top of the DVMega board however there is no fritzing part for DVMega so I drew it with the raspberry pi 3. We'll be able to figure it out!


There are 4 connections:


VCC goes to Pin 1 on Raspberry Pi

SDA goes to Pin 3 on Raspberry Pi

SCL goes to Pin 5 on Raspberry Pi

GND goes to Pin 9 on Raspberry Pi




Now as I said we have to do the soldering on top of the DVMega. Here's how those points transfer on top of the DVMega:



And here's what it looks like soldered.



Now lets configure it in Pi-Star. This is the part I could never find on the internet. Just go to your Configuration Page and Select OLED, then reboot. That's pretty much it.




Should look about like this once you've rebooted.




Now lets upgrade the firmware. There are a couple easy ways to do this but by far the easiest is to remove the Integrated Circuit chip from the DVMega and flash it on an Arduino R3 Uno. HOWEVER, bend one leg on the chip and break it and it's over. You are done. So here's what I recommend. Buy some additional chips. They are just a few dollars each. What you need is an Atmega328-PU Chip aka Arduino Bootloader Chip.


Don't touch the DVMega yet. First let's take one of these new chips and install it in the Arduino R3. Make sure the little tiny half circle notch is on the end of the board.





Now go to the DVMega Download page and download the X-Loader and the latest version of the firmware for the DVMega platform you have. (Mine is Raspberry Pi and the shipped mega I got had version 3.18 and a version 3.19 is now available).


Once downloaded hook your Arduino up to your computer, run the X-Loader program and select your board (Uno) and the proper firmware file and then hit the "Upload" button. That's it. Only takes a few seconds.



Now VERY VERY VERY carefully remove the chip from the DVMega. Gently pry up from both ends or use a proper chip pulling tool. If you don't have one just lift a tiny bit on one end, go to the other end and lift a tiny bit. Rinse, lather, repeat. Do it slowly. The pins will bend Oh So Easily. Likewise, remove the chip from the Arduino also making sure the notched end is near the end of the board. (Refer to my pic above with the soldered OLED on it. The notch is right on the board edge. Don't put it in backwards.


Now boot Pi-Star and Voila'


DVMega HR3.19




Comments

DMR Radio

So I get my Ham license and originally it was.............I just wanted the license, I don't actually want to transmit. Then I found out I could hit a local repeater with a small inexpensive walkie talkie so I began transmitting. Then one day I am camping out in the woods and the guy next to me comes and tells me he's a Ham and starts teaching me about DMR radio. DMR stands for Digital Mobile Radio and the best way to describe it is that it is the system of walkies and mobile radios the gigantic company near you uses or what your local police are using. You might hear a commercial on the radio for Motorola MOTOTRBO radios for your business.


One of the joys of DMR radio is that the popular frequencies it uses are covered by the lowest class of amateur radio operator meaning anyone with a Technician Class license can play. Secondly, in the event that you cannot reach a physical radio repeater because you are out of range such as is that case in backwater New Bern, NC you can enter the system from the Internet via a hotspot.


So basically the lowest class Technician can buy a cheap DMR capable radio such as the TYT MD-380



Don't be fooled by the naysayers out there. Although the MD-380 is Chinese made and inexpensive it is more than adequate to get you started on DMR radio.


One of the very cool things about this radio is that you can upload Open Source Firmware to it which gives you a lot more capability. The firmware is called MD380tools and is a super cool addition to the radio. The downside is that it voids the warranty. Yeah, right. If the radio isn't working correctly flash back to factory firmware and send it back.


It is possible that this cheap radio can in the future do P25, Fusion, and D-Star. I believe developers are working on adding these capabilities.






Anyway this radio only has a few watts of power so if you aren't living under a repeater you have to access the DMR network via a HotSpot. Before you can do any of this you must of course have a Ham Radio License and you must receive a free Unique Radio ID from DMR-Marc.net Look at the top toolbar for "Register ID" then fill out the request form and wait a day or so.




Now you need a hotspot. There are a few different directions to go with this and for the most part it is going to cost you $200 or so. Think about this. Picture in your mind an old Ham Radio guy and his radio shack then imagine how much all that glorious gear cost Old Mr. Ham. I'm telling you that you can talk to the whole wide world for about $300. Let's keep it in perspective.


The most popular (I guess) hotspot is the SharkRF OpenSpot.




You literally plug this in to ethernet in your home and do a few configurations on the web based config page of the appliance and you are talking to the world. I'm not getting into configuration in this page but it isn't difficult at all. Put in your call sign, your DMarc ID, set two or three other variables. Bang. Done.


OpenSpot does DMR, D-Star, and Fusion so even if your cheap Chinese radio doesn't......you can still talk to these protocols via the OpenSpot. How cool is that? All you do is set a simplex (same frequency receive and transmit) channel up on your radio.


The missing link here is P25 radio. I personally am not into it but P25 is a popular protocol. To get P25 requires you to get another radio and another hotspot.





One of the more popular ones (but certainly not the only one) that does P25 is the DVMega. For it you need a small board computer (there are several variants for several computers, this is for Raspberry Pi). So then you need a Raspberry Pi. Then you need to install an operating system on said Raspberry Pi.



The most popular one (and again, not the only one) is Pi-Star Once Pi-Star is installed you plug in the DVMega which then MIGHT need a firmware update so you can do P-25. The firmware update is not for the faint of heart and could involve soldering in one instance, or removal of the IC chip and placing it into an Arduino Uno R3 and flashing it. This of course means you have to own an Arduino R3 Uno (about $25). I'm a geek. I already have one.


Anyway after buying a Pi, installing Pi-Star and flashing the DVMega then you can configure Pi-Star. It is a lot harder to set up than the SharkRF OpenSpot but that's not saying much. It's still not that hard.





Here's my config. (when I took this screenshot I didn't actually have the DVMega installed. It is still in the mail. That is why P-25 is grayed out).





Anyway by using a hotspot I can key up on a low power walkie talkie and use one of many talk groups to talk literally around the block or around the world. Talkgroups and configuration and something called the Brandmeister networks are a blog for another day!





Comments

RTL_TCP Server - Advanced Capability

Ok. We all know I love SDR Radios by now.


$30 gets you basically every radio frequency that you can imagine and there is no shortage of geeks out there to write software to listen to or decode or make use of all those radio signals. One really cool thing you can do is to set up a server which you can connect to from anywhere. Some possible uses would be that you are on the road and your favorite radio station or program is on but your station doesn't stream on the internet.


Lots of local sports are broadcast on local radio only. Maybe your son is playing high school football and you are halfway across the globe. Or you can set a baby monitor or other microphone device up and listen to its frequency from anywhere. Also around 160 MHz is your local weather broadcasts. Maybe you are an airport junkie and listen to the local airport chatter, etc.


If you are like I am I work about 30 miles from home. There is a radio station at work I can't get at home and it doesn't stream on the internet. I can use this method to listen to that station that is just out of range of me at home.


There are a lot of reasons you might want to grab a local radio signal!


So the ability to do this is GREAT! But like all great things there are some gotchas. There are basically two ways (yeah I know there are probably more)......two popular ways to do this. Through a program called RTL_TCP and a program called Spyserver.


RTL stands for Realtek which is the chipset in the device. Other devices don't use Realtek chips. For example in the pic above........that device contains a Realtek chipset. Sooooooo....I can use RTL_TCP as a server. Here's one gotcha. That device above has a range of about 550 KHz to about 1.7 GHz or so. That's a lot!


BUT, there is always a but.........the frequencies are kind of broken up. HF or high frequency stuff (AM Radio, Shortwave) require the device to be placed into something called Direct Sampling Mode. If not you get about 30 MHz to 1.7 GHz (FM, fire, police, weather, cell phone, and about a million other things). So while it has all the range you have to decide what you want to listen to. You can't have it all at once.


Well, ya can't. You could buy an Airspy One and Spyverter combo which costs over $200 and it has a program called Spyserver but you kind of have the same thing going on. If you configure it for HF listening then you're right back to where you started from. Also with Spyserver you can ONLY connect with client software called SDR# (and another Windows program). I use Mac. This won't work for me, and it is too expensive. You could buy an SDRPlay which has the frequency range you need but it isn't really supported by RTL_TCP or Spyserver. There are github repositories where people have tried but they seem to be dead projects and an SDRPlay costs big bucks as well. That stick in the picture at the top of this blog post costs $30.


So with economy in mind lets go the $30 route and I'll show you how you can have it all. But it isn't automatic. You have to choose but you can shut down one and start the other remotely so it isn't all that bad.


Lets do this on a Raspberry Pi (it can be done on an Orange Pi or Beagle Board Black or I suppose any other small board computer that runs Linux).


Start with a fresh install of Raspian (on raspberry pi) and make sure it is updated.


NOTE: You also have to be able to connect to your Pi via SSH or have direct access via keyboard, mouse, and monitor.



sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get upgrade


I'm using directions from this web site and you'll need a file from there too. I guarantee you I didn't figure this out. This is NOT MY WORK. Download the file named rtl_tcp.c from his web site.

Once that is done do these commands:


sudo apt-get install -y cmake pkg-config libusb-1.0.git


git clone git://git.osmocom.org/rtl-sdr.git

cd rtl-sdr

mkdir build

cd build

Now at this point you need to take that file rtl_tcp.c and replace it with the same named file located at /home/pi/rtl-sdr/build/src (your path may be different)

I used a program called Cyberduck and did an SFTP transfer






Locate then upload your file!







Now that the file is replaced let's get back to the building. Run these commands:


cmake ../ -DINSTALL_UDEV_RULES=ON

make

sudo make install

sudo ldconfig

sudo cp ../rtl-sdr.rules /etc/udev/rules.d/

sudo reboot


Now once you have rebooted type:

rtl_tcp -help


You should see this below. Take note of the -i command which is new. Had you not replaced that file it would not be there.:



This will let you set your sampling mode.


To just listen to normal FM radio and non-HF listening type the following command (make sure to use YOUR ip address):


rtl_tcp -a 192.168.20.83


You'll be able to tune from about 30 MHz on up.


Now lets get our Shortwave Radio and AM radio fix on, shall we?


rtl_tcp -a 192.168.20.83 -i 2




Now I can listen to shortwave or FM bands. I just have to know which one I want to listen to so I can start in regular or Direct Sampling Mode. To do this at boot or to swap them you can make service files. I'll call my service files rtltcp.service and rtltcphf.service


sudo nano /etc/systemd/system/rtltcp.service


paste in the following making sure YOUR IP adress is correct:



[Unit]

Description=RTLTCP

After=network.target

[Service]

ExecStartPre=/bin/sleep 30

ExecStart=/usr/local/bin/rtl_tcp -a 192.168.20.83

[Install]

WantedBy=multi-user.target


Hit Ctl + X then Y to save.


To make the service file for hf just do this:


sudo nano /etc/systemd/system/rtltcphf.service


Paste in this:


[Unit]

Description=RTLTCP HF Listening

After=network.target

[Service]

ExecStartPre=/bin/sleep 30

ExecStart=/usr/local/bin/rtl_tcp -a 192.168.20.83 -i 2

[Install]

WantedBy=multi-user.target


Hit Ctl + X then Y to save.


to start one or the other (don't run them both at the same time)


sudo systemctl start rtltcp.service (or the hf one)


To stop and start the other one


sudo systemctl stop rtltcp.service


sudo systemctl start rtltcphf.service


to start one at boot time


sudo systemctl enable rtltcp.service


To load the other one after boot


sudo systemctl disable rtltcp.service


then


sudo systemctl enable rtltcphf.service (or you could just start it here)


Comments

NO NO NO THAT IS NOT IT! Raspotify on Raspberry Pi with HiFiBerryAmp

I love HiFiBerry. They are the pinnacle of digital audio from the Raspberry Pi platform. They make great DAC's and Amps. Untold people and yours truly have made many cool projects with them. My claim to fame is a tube amp with a Pi and HiFiBerry Amp built in with an LCD display.



So I bought the HiFiBerry Amp+ AGES Ago and found it this morning in the bottom of a drawer already hooked to a Pi 3 in a nice 3D case I printed. Time to put you to use. Just hook it up to a set of speakers is all with cheap wire (for now).



I decided to put the system in my daughters old room which would of course be a guest room if anyone stays. I didn't want to make a complicated audio player like my LogitechMediaServers so I figured I'd run straight Spotify and sure enough I stumble upon this on HiFiBerry's web page.



The EASY way it says! With a single command it will install spotify connect on your Raspberry Pi. Easy!


BAAA!


I ran that command on an upgraded system and the program Raspotify was nothing but a giant crashed mess. So I tried all kinds of stuff with no luck and then just installed a new version of Raspbian on my Pi.


Rough steps:

- Flash latest Raspbian on SD card use a program called Etcher if you don't know how to dd.

- On mac change directory after flash to /Volumes/boot (cd /Volumes then cd boot)

- make a file named ssh (touch ssh)

- alter config.txt as follows: (sudo nano /boot/config.txt) Put a # sign in front of the line that says dtparam=audio=on then add a line that says dtoverlay=hifiberry-amp

Hit Ctl + X then yes to save.



Now reboot. Once you are back up do this by connecting to your pi via ssh

Now you can run that single command:


curl -sL https://dtcooper.github.io/raspotify/install.sh | sh


Now after it installs we need to modify the config file"

sudo nano /etc/default/raspotify

then create a line that says

OPTIONS="--device hw:0"


Hit Ctl + X then yes to save.



EASY! JUST RUN ONE COMMAND! PPPPFFFFFFTTTTTTTTT


Now we can open the Spotify app on our phone or iPad and play a song. You'll notice that somewhere under the album art it will say "DEVICES AVAILABLE" hit that then notice it says "raspotify (hifiberryamp). Hifiberryamp is the hostname I gave my raspberry pi. Yours will probably say "raspberrypi".



Now just connect to Raspotify. Notice it is in green at the bottom of the screen.





FINAL NOTE: Mine would just wickedly pop at first so then I VNC'd into the Pi and turned the volume down. Guess it was too much for it. Once the volume on the Pi was set down some it worked fine.


Anyway, don't think you're going to run the one script and have wicked success. Life just isn't like that.



Comments

OpenVPN Client on Ubuntu Linux - Why Not Easy?

On the road with my Ubuntu Linux laptop. It’s my camping computer. First and foremost it is fairly easy in itself to connect to your OpenVPN server from the COMMAND LINE, just graphically sucks. Something always goes wrong. Today is no exception.


First my OpenVPN server simply allows me to download the configuration file just by clicking a button. Sweet.




Now all you do is run the .conf file like so:


sudo openvpn —config /path/to/file




Here’s the problem with that. It asks you every time for your user name and password. Yuck.




Then it connects. Swell. I guess. Who remembers their auth password for VPN on a camping trip?


Here’s what you have to do. Back to the command line.


sudo apt-get install network-manager-gnome network-manager-openvpn


Then restart networking or reboot. Now open your Network Connections > Click Add > Then Import a saved VPN configuration > Create







Now navigate to your saved configuration file:




It will open your config file. At this point you should be able to just plug in your user name and password, hit save and forever connect.


HA. Psych. No fucking way. It didn’t work. I found the problem though. See the advanced button? It imported a field incorrectly




Why does stuff never just easily work? See at the bottom where it says “Key Direction 1”? Well that is the correct setting. When I imported this is set that variable to “Key Direction NONE”. Why it didn’t correctly import the key setting I have no idea. I had to look through every single line of the config file and compare it to the graphical interface before I found that. Here's the snippet of code I found the error in. Nothing quite like looking through every line of code in something.







Works fine now. No more password and easy to connect to my OpenVPN server graphically now.

The check mark beside my config file indicates it is connected. Hurray. I win.




Comments

GoPro Hero 4 Silver as a Dashcam

So I bought a 2017 Tacoma a couple of months ago and saw something stuck to the windshield just to the right of the rearview mirror. It was a GoPro mount. I did a little googling and found out that Toyota started putting them in a year or so earlier. Kind of a stroke of genius I guess. The mount literally costs a dollar or two and encourages one to install a GoPro as a dash cam.




That's real cool and everything but there is one issue here. They provided no way to apply power to the GoPro which (in my case with the Hero 4 Silver) takes 5 volts through a mini USB connector.


So to use the GoPro you'd literally have to remove it and charge it nightly. Or you can hardwire it yourself which is not so difficult.


There are a million dash cam hardwire kits on line, some very inexpensive. Basically you wire them into a 12 volt source of power anywhere in the vehicle, and attach the black wire to ground. Just upstream from where you connect those wires is a little block which is a 12 volt to 5 volt converter. Then you simply snake the mini USB connector along the headliner to the GoPro.





I bought this kit from the DashCamstore.com. It is fairly ingenious as it plugs into the fuse block. You decide whether you want the camera powered all the time or not. I did not want constant power so I pulled the 10 amp fuse from the Windshield Washer and then you insert that fuse into the adapter shown below. Then you just plug that fuse adapter into the block. Next find a bolt on the car somewhere and attach the black ground wire.




Once you have power I suggest you test the cable BEFORE routing it. What a pain that would be to professionally route the cable just to find out it didn't work or something. On my Tacoma I popped off the SRS Airbag plastic cap right about where my label says "APillar". Under it is a 10 mm bolt head which then allows you to pull the plastic trim APillar out. In the lower left hand corner of your dash will be a hole. I ran a fish tape straight into that hole which came out near the passenger door or left foot kick panel.


Taped my USB cable end and pulled it back through. I neatly zip tied everything underneath and stowed it. From there you simply run the wire up along the wire bundle in the APillar making double damn sure you don't obstruct the airbag. Just follow the wire bundle. I zip tied my USB cable twice in there. From there you simply stuff the wire up under the headliner. It pushed up under there real easily and the headliner does not get mangled in any way, shape, or form. You can see the USB cable end sticking out in my photos. Then simply plug it in the GoPro.






I hadn't plugged mine in on the above photos as my GoPro only had a sealed case. You need a skeleton case like this (photo below). It allows for you to use the touch screen and plug it in. Just don't go surfing with it. Anyway the installation is super clean with just a few inches of wire showing from the headliner. I'm real pleased with how this whole project went.



Installing a dash cam with a permanent power source is EASY. Even though this was done in a Toyota Tacoma the steps are going to be essentially the same for any vehicle. Anyone can do it.




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For Cord Cutters - Philo Shmilo

I'm a cord cutter. I have high speed internet and refuse to pay for the high cost of cable, especially since I don't watch TV much. So years ago I got Netflix, Hulu and an app called Sling which is basically cable TV streamed over high speed internet. Sling is pretty okay however they just recently dumped their Mac app and now you view Sling through Chrome browser. That in itself is okay but I liked the app however it had a propensity to crash a lot whether it was on Mac, or IOS on the iPad.


I do like that Sling also has an app on Apple TV. So for better or worse I've been a Sling user for several years and fairly happy. To be honest though I only watch a few TV shows. And those shows are on A&E, Discovery, History and Travel and sometimes I catch myself watching Nat Geo. That's it. Period. End of story. Here's the kicker. I LOVE the show Gold Rush but Sling dumped Discovery a while back. Philo has it so in reality while Sling has way more content, Philo has the stuff I really want.


So when Philo came along I was really, really happy because number one it has the stuff I want and almost none of the stuff I don't AND........it's cheaper. $16 a month. So I gave the 48 hour trial period a spin. And my first impression of it is that YOU MUST complete the 48 hour trial before you can buy it. You can't just sign up. I actually appreciate that because you can't just buy in and then complain about what you don't like.


Philo works about like Sling does, as far as I'm concerned there isn't a nickels worth of difference. Sling maybe has the more polished program guide though however to save money its not worth the extra money especially if you know the things you want to watch already. Here's Philo's guide below.





Ok. Here's my problem. I have an Apple TV with a Sling app. It's easy to navigate around in but Philo does NOT have an Apple TV app. Rats.

BUT, BUT, BUT......Philo works in a browser and I do have a Mac Mini hooked to the TV via HDMI. Hurray!


Wait, not so fast. The Mac Mini has no keyboard or mouse. I control it remotely from a Mac program called Remote Desktop. It's a VNC program basically. Sooooooo I log into the Mac Mini and open Philo in a browser and hit play on some show and ....................Wait for it................Rats.


It thinks I'm trying to take streaming video and stream it again within a VNC program and it just doesn't want to play. Rat farts.





Now what? Philo has a Roku app. I don't own a Roku..........I do now. $30 later I now have a Roku hooked to the TV. And the Philo app works. Great. But wait........


THERE'S NO GUIDE. Da fuq?



However, I am undeterred. All this is worth the effort. You can use your iPhone with a Roku app which acts as a remote to use a keyboard so you can easily pull searches in lieu of the missing guide.


Conclusion: While Philo has some limitations and you may need a Roku or Computer hooked directly to your TV unless you view on iPad or iPhone it is worth it due to the lower cost.




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Inverter Generator - Honda EU2000i

Well I finally went and lost my mind at 55 years old. After my daughter left to go to college rather than sit at home and have long, deep conversations with myself I bought a camper to hit the open road with. For various reasons, none of which have anything to do with a generator, I bought a Forest River Rockwood A122.




Great little pop up, hard sided camper. Even though I never camped in my life, I'm drawn to that lifestyle like a moth to the flame. Going out, seeing new places, meeting new people, living in the woods, albeit with an air conditioner, and heater and AM/FM Stereo and full kitchen.


Now most campgrounds have 30 amp electrical connectors which is what this trailer requires. You can run all your appliances at the same time easily with that and plug stuff in all over the place.


However, if you want to get away from the campground in what campers refer to as "boondocking" then by golly you need a power source. A lot of people slap a solar panel up on that nice tilted A frame which keeps the camper battery charged. The problem with that is that it is kind of a fair weather solution. If it were winter it might be okay because the onboard furnace is propane. So you're probably in good shape to run a few lights, but wanna charge your phone, watch TV, turn on the heat pump or air conditioner? Not gonna happen.......for long that is.




So plan B is to go get a generator. But there are generators, and there are inverter generators. Inverter generators produce a very clean Sine Wave which means they won’t kill your very sensitive electronic devices such as computers, cell phones, etc. So that is what we want since we don’t want to smoke check the nice thermostat or AM/FM Stereo in the camper along with our iPhones. In addition to clean power, when you are camping you need QUIET power. No point in communing with nature if there is 108 dB of generator sound cranking out 25’ from your bed.


Also realize that you should have some idea of how much power you need. My very small camper with a 10,000 BTU air conditioner / heat pump will not have nearly the demands of an enormous RV. 2000 watts of generator power is all I need if I am smoldering hot in the camper and I probably can just run the AC and charge a few devices and operate an LED light or two. Uhhhhh that’s all I do anyway in the camper. Anyway, don’t run out and buy this generator based on reading my blog and then get mad at me when it doesn’t power your mobile home that is as big as a real home. Use one of many of the internet generator load calculators to decide what you need and seek out the advice on the Internet Forums on the camper THAT YOU HAVE.


So as you begin to do your research on small, quiet, inverter generators the Honda EU2000i has no equal. It’s on the top of every list. On the lists it might not be on top of the reviewer will say something like “I loved it but it has no hour meter.......”. Well Mr. Reviewer didn’t read the manual because when you start the unit and the green power light comes on steady it means it has 0 to 100 hours on it. When it blinks once......100-200 hours, and so on and so forth. So while it isn’t precise..........THERE IS AN ACCOUNTING OF RUN TIME. My point being here is.............DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH IN ADDITION TO READING THAT OF OTHERS.


Here it is:


It goes about 46 lbs or so and it’s not very big. And when you pick it up it isn’t terrifically bulky either. It doesn’t make you walk like you have one leg in a splint as you lurch along with it. At 55 years old I was able to easily lift it up to the tailgate of my SR5 Toyota Tacoma which is up there a bit.


So I get it out of the box and add 13 ozs of 10W-30 oil and then almost a gallon of gas. It takes a couple pulls, probably because there has never been any gas in it before but starts easy. Subsequent starts after that are SUPER easy. You barely have to pull the cord. Operation is VERY quiet. Get more than a few feet away from it and it is barely a distraction, HOWEVER the larger the load, the louder it is. Remember that. Last night as I was giving it some run time I sat a laptop on the edge of my hot tub and watched some Netflix. The generator was about 15’ away and did not drown out the laptop sound.




This is an awesome little generator not just because it delivers clean power silently.........it also has a couple of tricks up its sleeve. For example with this battery charging cord there is a DC voltage out feature which acts as a battery charger. (Note the DC receptacle in the drawing below). You heard that right. This generator is a battery charger. Also it has parallel wiring ports so that you can hook another one of these together and double your wattage. Tie two together and you have 4000 starting watts of power. Of course these generators aren’t cheap, so two of them is a bit expensive but could be well worth it.




There are a couple of other nice features as well. It also has an "ECO Throttle" switch which reduces the engine speed as the load is reduced or disconnected. Most generators are just running..........same speed, same output. This will throttle down when you aren't pulling a big load which gives you two things:

- Reduced Sound

- Longer run time due to greater fuel efficiency.


Another great thing this generator does is to shut itself down if it sees a low oil condition. Nice.








And while you can tie two of them together the max output on the 110v sockets is 20 amps. Remember that the camper uses 30 amps? Honda sells a generator that is the Companion to this and in fact that is what they call it “EU2000i Companion”. It is almost the same generator except one of the output sockets is an RV ready 30 amp twist lock connector. Oh this just gets better all the time. Just note, however, that the Companion model does NOT have the DC output for charging batteries. To tie the two together you just need this parallel cable kit which costs about $40


Another great thing about having a Honda generator is that Honda generator engines have an almost unrivaled reputation and also Honda Service Centers are all over the place. I live in a very small town and there are 3 near here. Also the warranty on this generator is 3 years. That’s huge.


Now what don't I like about it? Well, not much, but there is one thing. Set a $900 generator down on the ground and it may grow legs and walk away. So you loop a bicycle lock or similar through the handle only to find that the handle is plastic and easily cut through. Honda sells a Theft deterrent kit which basically wraps the handle in a metal sleeve and then you lock it up with chain or cable. That's cool but it costs $40 or more.




So while the generators are awesome as can be if you want to parallel two together, be prepared to shell out $40 for cables, then a DC cable for charging the batteries is $11, then the theft deterrent...............well you get my drift. Dear Honda. This costs $900 if you shop hard and $1099 if you don't. For God's sakes put some accessories in the box. It doesn't even come with a container of oil in the box. Oh, almost forgot the $30 cover.




Still it's the best small inverter generator on planet earth. You are really getting a lot of generator and a lot of features. Also this generator is highly "hackable". People have done all kinds of things with these such as added panel lamps, magnetic oil dipsticks to pick up metal shavings in the pan, and the addition of hour meters. All that and probably a dozen other hacks. Oh, and it will run on propane as well with a (non-Honda) conversion kit.


Lastly here is a video of it in action. You can hear how quiet it is as I back off towards the end.



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